Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Myth of You and Me

At my office we have a bookshelf in the kitchen where people leave books that they don't mind sharing. It's sort of a rotating selection. Usually, I bring my own book to work and read it during lunch, but a few weeks ago I forgot my book and decided to grab something off the shared shelf, just for that one day. As a general rule, I an NOT a big fan of reading more than one book at a time; it feels like cheating. The book I grabbed that day was The Myth of You and Me by Leah Stewart. I only read like 10 pages, but I could tell it was good. Then I quickly abandoned it to return to my current book, which I think was The Inheritance of Loss. But when I finished The Samurai's Garden on Monday and my purchase still hadn't arrived, I found myself bookless. I decided to pick The Myth of You and Me up again. And it was SO good. I loved this book.

The story is told in first person by Cameron, a 29 year old research assistant to a 92 year old historian. She has no friends and has lived with her boss for 3 years.

Here is the first chapter (don't worry, it's only a page long):

"What if you had never met me?" Sonia says. "What would your life be like?"
Sonia has been my best friend for only a few months, but already life without her is difficult to imagine. All I can muster is an image of myself alone in a room. "Boring," I say, and Sonia laughs.
We are lying on her four-poster bed, staring up at the pink canopy, our feet propped on the wall above her headboard. We are fourteen. When I turn my head to look at Sonia, her hair brushes against the side of my face.
"If you hadn't been standing in the right place in the parking lot," she says, "we might never have spoken."
"We have three classes together," I say.
"If you hadn't come in the gym that day, we might never have become friends."
"Maybe we were destined to be friends," I say. "Maybe we would've been assigned a group project."
She waves her hand in the air above us, dismissing this. "Every decision we make," she says, "affects the rest of our lives."
"Yeah, yeah," I say, because I've heard this from her a million times
"For example," she says, "what if you had to choose between being my best friend forever and having the boy of your dreams?"
"I can't have both?"
"Why not?"
"That's the game."
"Maybe you'd marry his brother and live next door."
She shakes her head, and the movement shakes the mattress. "You have to choose," she says.
Eight years from now I will abandon Sonia. I'll drive away from a gas station in West Texas, my eyes on the rearview mirror, where I'll see her running after my car, a shocked, desperate expression on her face. Here in Sonia's bedroom it's all still there before us, every decision between that moment and this.
Sonia rolls over onto her elbows so she can look me in the face. "Choose," she demands. "Choose."

You can't tell me that you don't want to read the next chapter! It would be a lie. I'm not spoiling any more than the back jacket description does when I tell you the plot. Basically, her eccentric boss dies and leaves her one last task - to deliver a mystery package to Sonia, her long lost best friend who she hasn't spoken to in 8 years.

Here are the things I loved about this book:
1. I like reading books where the main character is my age. I know every generation probably feels this way, but the late twenties/early thirties seems like a momentous time. Like *this* is finally when we all grow up, when we have to make the big decisions.
2. It so accurately captures childhood friendships. I had 3 best friends from ages 10-14. Every time I would become inseparable with one, she would move. But parts of each of those friendships could be seen in the relationship between Cameron and Sonia in the book.
3. It also accurately captures the end of a friendship and the ongoing feelings of loss associated with that.
4. For some reason I really liked the fact that Cameron was 6'2". This is practically a foot taller than me, and so I couldn't relate at all, but I still loved it. The subtle way it wove it's way into the main character's development was interesting. I think many people feel like there was something about them growing up that set them apart and made them feel like an outsider. For me, it was the fact that my voice sounded like Kathleen Turner's at the age of 6, but to have that quality so physically obvious was an interesting choice.
5. This book is chalk full of unrequited love and even some real romance and it reminded me that realism is perhaps better than the corny romances depicted in some of the crap chick lit that I sometimes read.

There are more reasons, but I don't want to spoil the book. Go buy it and read it yourself. Then tell me what *you* think. Except not if you hate it. Because I get pissed when people hate books that I really liked. I'm a bit of a book dictator.

Next I plan to start Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl. This book comes highly recommended by my friend Heidi who loaned it to me and it was voted one of the 10 best books of the year by The New York Times. That said, the one paragraph description on the back is kind of confusing. Hopefully the book isn't too.


tib said...

You are right I do want to read the rest of the book. Did you put it back in the kitchen?

Kristin said...

Dude! I've totally read this chick book! I think it was at a house I was housesitting one time. I'm withholding comments as per your request.

cranky rae said...

I just reread this blog post, because I was looking for some reviews of some books I stole from your house this week. Dude, that Kathleen Turner line makes me LOL every time.